Book Review: The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary Women’s Dystopian Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (01/10/19)

Summary:

In a not-so-distant future Russia occupies America. Travel is limited. Employment is limited. Freedom is limited. Valerie grew up privileged as the daughter of the secretary of state but is now forced to cook for the army in this occupied-America. With her culinary background she impresses a Russian general and is given the ‘opportunity’ to work in his mansion. Christened “Three” she works with a head chef and four other chefs in the kitchen during the day. This opportunity involves being led to her work space in handcuffs every day, bullied and belittled by the guards and the guests at times, and forced to work for the same men who killed her father and are destroying her country’s freedoms. She knows she will not do nothing, will not work demurely, will not stand idly by if an opportunity presents itself.

Keywords:

Social Sci-fi, Cooking, Kitchen, Servitude, Occupied America, Passion, Friendship, Loyalty, Courage, Despair, Russia, Violence, Oppression, Tension

My Review:

Though supplies may be scarce, the kitchen brigade bring life and love to the dishes they prepare. Head Chef Svetlana says some very poignant remarks about cooking and food throughout the novel. It is their love of food and their passion for cooking that bring life to the kitchen and hope to their hearts. It is this passion that seems to lead them in other areas of their lives and gives them the willingness to stand up for what they believe in and the need to act when they can.

I enjoyed all the characters very much. Head Chef Svetlana seemed so complex when viewed from both her point of view and from Valerie’s point of view combined. Who is Svetlana really and what side does she work for? Valerie is very courageous, even in the beginning she does not yield instantly to her fate. Yet, she does not fight when there is no reason. She is industrious and clever. Two seemed the most complex character with the least explanation or backstory and I really enjoyed this slight ambiguity. In the height of chaos, what would she do? She is the loose cannon that could crumble Svetlana’s plans and yet Svetlana loves Two like a daughter. I adored Four so much! She was so cool. Each of the women in the employ of Svetlana in the kitchen were full of personality.

I enjoyed the details of running the kitchen, including food preparation, wine pairing, cleaning, herb gardening, and more.

This book had great suspension and tension throughout. The ending came suddenly and some of the action I couldn’t quite picture but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on 01/10/19 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

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Book Review: Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

An Contemporary YA Novel published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (04/14/19)

Summary:

On the first day of her senior year of high school in the small town of Highland, Iowa, Trina gets to school before any of the other students so she can volunteer and help the teachers. Trina bumps into the most popular and best looking boy on that first day. Is it her imagination or is he trying to follow her around school? Trina has one best friend in the entire school and everyone else either ignores her or makes fun of her and her mom. Why would Ethan give her the time of day?

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Friendship, High School, Sewing, Costumes, Musical, Alternative Lifestyle, Family, Best Friends, Senior Year, Volunteer

My Review:

Starla has a way with building amazing characters. I felt like I was Trina. She blends into the background and does her own thing but isn’t afraid to voice her opinion and stand up for herself. Trina drives an old car and has dreams of going places, specifically leaving her small town. Though I’ve never really been in a small town, I felt like I understood entirely the feeling of being unique and standing out in Highland, Iowa. I loved Trina’s interactions with her mom, with her best friend, and with Ethan. Trina’s voice was distinct and she knew what she liked, who she liked, and what she wanted.

The dialogue was clever and realistic and mesmerizing. I couldn’t get enough of it.

The romance was perfectly developed and I loved being inside Trina’s head with her nerves and her anxieties throughout it all. I especially loved Ethan’s reactions to Trina’s anxiety.

Ethan was also well developed as a character. He had a robust life outside of his interest in Trina. He had his own wants and dreams as well as his own faults and problems. I really enjoyed the complication of Emmaline, Ethan’s younger sister in the story as well.

The details of costume building and theater were super fun and I really liked how at this particular high school the theater nerd was the most popular kid in school.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. on 04/14/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Starla Huchton’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Sammy and the Devil Dog by Susan Brown

Sammy and the Devil Dog by Susan Brown

A Middle Grade Novel published through Yellow Farmhouse Publications (9/21/17)

Summary:

Sammy can’t seem to get to school on time or stay away from trouble. She can’t let bullies go unanswered. When she finds an abused dog, without hesitation, she decides to save him. The dog is still a puppy, but has a lot to learn to be a nice and good dog. Sammy will go to great lengths to save him.

Keywords:

Dog, Puppy, Dog Training, Aggressive Dog, Animal Abuse, Bullying, Standing Up, Speaking Out, Family, Mother-Daughter Relationship, Friends, Friendship, School

My Review:

Sammy’s faults are her strengths. She doesn’t always fit into society the way she’s supposed to. She would rather save a helpless animal than be on time to school. She is misunderstood by those around her and yet she still sticks up for what she believes in. She is a person and a character that everyone will root for. Her moral code is so strong that she doesn’t think twice about helping someone else, but sometimes those actions can be quite selfish. She can’t help everyone and sometimes in the process of helping one person or animal, she is hurting someone else.

This book showed so many realistic characters and situations. I was right there with Sammy as she found Jack. I was still right there with her when she thought about her mother and what she wasn’t getting from her mother. I felt like I understood Sammy’s perspective so completely, and yet she is still a child with a lot of learning to do. As an adult reading this story I can also understood the mother’s point of view and sympathize with both mother and daughter.

This is a great read for kids and adults, especially if they’re reading it together. The characters showed a lot of growth.

This novel was published through Yellow Farmhouse Publications on 9/21/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Susan Brown’s Website 

Book Review: Shy Ways by Susan Griner

Shy Ways by Susan Griner

A Middle Grade Novel published through Amazon Digital Services Inc. (08/28/17)

Summary:

“I wanted a day off from being part Japanese, part anything.” (Page 145).

Sarah doesn’t like her new home or her new school. The other kids call her mean names because she’s half-Japanese. She wishes she would stand up for herself and speak up, but every time she doesn’t say a word and sometimes cries instead. When the plant where her father and most of the town works has an accident with a chemical leak, it will affect Sarah’s entire family and the whole town. Sarah will forget all about the mean, ignorant comments at school when her mother falls into a deep depression. Taking charge, Sarah will have to find her voice and help her mother.

Keywords:

Sisters, School, Mean Comments, Bullying, Japanese-American, Bi-Racial, New School, New Town, Small Town, PTSD, Racism, Chemical Pollution, Depression, Mothers, Family, Growing Up

My Review:

The story really picks up after the incident at the plant, but we see such a change in Sarah’s home life from before the accident to after. Sarah herself goes through quite a transformation from the beginning of the book to the end. She grows up a lot for a young girl and learns quite a few lessons – like standing up and saying something when someone says something ignorant and mean. She also learns to embrace her mother and her ethnicity, even though it isn’t a part of her life at all except for her heritage.

Both Sarah and her sister were so true to their ages that I could picture them clearly as the kids they were. The young one blurts out whatever’s on her mind and the older one tries to do what she thinks she’s supposed to or follow social norms.

This is a great example of a book of diversity – drawing on issues that kids face when they grow up as second generation Americans.

This novel was published through Amazon Digital Services Inc. on 08/28/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Susan Griner’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: Mildred In Disguise: With Diamonds by Toni Kief

Mildred In Disguise: With Diamonds by Toni Kief

A Contemporary Fiction Novel published through Toni Kief/Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest (03/28/17)

Summary:

Mildred knew that stepping into the casino would bring up memories of her late husband’s gambling debts, but at 71-years old, she needs a job. The casino is close and hiring. Instead of working as a cashier, she is chosen to work undercover. Her career as a meter maid has only prepared her for some of what she’s in store for with this new job.

Keywords:

Casino, 71-Year Old, Grandma, Theft, Retirement, Undercover, Danger, Disguise, Police

My Review:

What a whirlwind! I never expected to read a book where the main character was over 70 and still running around getting into trouble! It was neat reading a book with a character you don’t normally see as the main character. Mildred is a great blend of sarcastic, witty, humorous, and get-it-done undercover detective. Her disguises are hilarious.

The story was fully fledged and the mystery was layered. Mildred got her share of bruises during her investigations, but also stepped down when the big guys were needed to catch the bad guys.

I loved the insights into a large Casino and the life of an older and semi-retired lady.

This novel was published through Toni Kief/Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest on 03/28/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Toni Kief’s Website

Book Review: Paper Cranes (A Fairytale Twist Novel) by Jordan Ford

Paper Cranes (A Fairytale Twist Novel) by Jordan Ford

A YA Contemporary Romance Novel Published by Amazon Digital Services (6/16/17)

Summary:

“I know it must seem odd sometimes like we’ve never really fit into this world. But there’s magic in words and storytelling. I’d be lost without books, Tristan. They’ve kept me afloat through my darkest days. Escaping into another world full of love, enchantment…heroes. It keeps me breathing.” (Kindle Locations 1450-1452).

Tristan decided to live with his dad when his parents divorced because his mom had someone to come home to and his dad did not. Tristan feels more and more burdened taking care of his dad. He doesn’t want to participate in school or be social and would rather be the typical morose teenager until he meets the girl in the tower next door, Helena. She is straight out of a fairytale with her mild English accent, proper English, and romantic notions.

Keywords:

Puppy Love, Tower, Fairy Tale, Paper Cranes, Wishes, Quirks, Poetry, English Assignments, Love, Romance, Divorce, Teenagers, Dreams

My Review:

Tristan, outside of Helena feels incredibly real and like sullen teenager, but with Helena he is full of puppy love. Most of this book was focused on the ridiculous and hard to read over-the-top puppy love. Helena never felt real to me and she was a flat character and though Tristan idolizes her and her unique ‘personality’ she felt unreal and exaggerated to me.

Tristan is incredibly dynamic. He’s your typical broody teenager, but his backstory is rather interesting. Every moment we were in his head as he interacted with his dad or his mom, I was engrossed in the book.

The plot was quite predictable, a bit dull and unremarkable. If only more of the book was devoted to Tristan, it would have been a much better read.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services on 06/16/17 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Jordan Ford’s Website

Book Review: Pole Dancer by Nikki St. John

Pole Dancer by Nikki St. John

A Contemporary Fiction Novel published by Nikki St.John (10/21/14)

Summary:

After Alex is fired as a celebrity publicist, she moves from her hometown of NYC back to her parent’s house in Atlanta. After months of looking for a job, she finally starts working for a high end purse shop in the mall. After discovering pole dancing and a possible new celebrity client, Alex is on her way to a new career and a new self.

Keywords:

Pole Dancing, Reality TV, Rap, Rappers, Rich, Publicist, Celebrity Publicist, Corporate Life, Strip Clubs, Strippers, Professional Pole Dancer, Social Media, Betrayal, Friendship, Family, Communication

My Review:

I wanted to like this story but the typos, lack of editing and at times confusingly written scenes got in the way of my full enjoyment. This fun fiction book would have pulled at least four stars, grammar notwithstanding because the story was so juicy, if not for the abrupt (more than just a cliffhanger) ending. It literally stops mid-scene between two characters.

Pole dancing was throughout the book (after the first part), but it wasn’t the defining characteristic of the main character, which I liked. It wasn’t all about pole dancing, but it was an important part of the plot.

The pole journey of the main character, though she was a cheerleader in her earlier life, was somewhat unrealistic (at least for the majority of people). In a short span of a few weeks, she is able to do intermediate pole moves as a curvier 30-year old. Pole dancing takes quite a bit of time and even if this fast level of learning is possible in real life, it would be an anomaly. The strength to do moves takes time and the main character hadn’t even hit a gym in months when she started pole dancing. By the end she’s doing doubles moves, superman, and intermediate level inversions.

This novel was published by Nikki St.John on October 21st, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube.com/PoleDanceNation
PoleDanceNation.com

Book Review: Summer Melody by Toddie Downs

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Summer Melody by Toddie Downs

A Coming of Age Fiction Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (06/29/16)

Summary:

Three generations of women’s stories interweave as each must find their own hidden strengths. Bonnie must come to terms with her aging mother’s secrets. Her niece, Meg, is set to marry her perfect match, but when adversity strikes will they become closer or will they be pushed apart? Bonnie’s daughter, Jane, is a 14 year old who is given responsibility of a neighbor’s autistic 5-year old, but will it be too much for her?

Keywords:

Autism, Relationships, Family, Love, Friendships, Teenagers, Responsibility, Secrets, Wedding, Uncertainty, Past, Dementia, Power, Family Ties, Forgiveness

My Review:

As soon as I understood what relationship each character had with one another, I was hooked. Each chapter is told from the POV of one of the main characters: Bonnie, Meg, or Jane. This book was all about the character relationships and character details. I was extremely fascinated to see the dynamics that played out with a character with dementia and a character with autism.

This is contemporary work at its most realistic. It isn’t necessarily a fictional book with a recognizable plot arc. It is a story that will delve into characters we might not necessarily see in fiction or portrayed in fiction as a normal part of the characters’ lives. This is their reality and it is so interesting to read about.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on June 29th, 2016 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Toddie Down’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Beauty and the Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza

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Beauty and the Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Wet Coast Media, LLC (5/30/14)

Summary:

Nothing is going on in Dot’s life. After atteneding her mother’s fourth wedding and meeting the image consultant Kennedy J, who promises to do her for free, Dot takes the plunge. A strict exercise and diet as well as hypnotism regime turns into weight loss and plastic surgery and an entire wardrobe and personal makeover. After her transformation is complete, Dot meets Jmiller and they date. Everything seems to be going well, until John introduces Dot to his best friend, who happens to also be Dot’s former high school bully.

Keywords:

Bridesmaid, Plastic Surgery, Self-Confidence, Nutrition, Diet, Exercise, Cynicism, Boyfriend, Tragedy, Bully, Transformation, Technology, QA, Weight Loss, Extreme Makeover

My Review:

I love makeover stories; however, for a woman to put herself through hell and back just to be ‘attractive’ according to societal standards does grate on the back of my mind. But this story was told as if it was reality and I’m sure there are plenty of women who feel society’s pressure to be pretty and thin and who do something about it, maybe not as extreme as Dot to achieve her end result. I really did like how her transformation was complete and encompassed good living style according to nutrition and exercise and putting effort into her wardrobe.

The twist near the end caught me by surprise. No spoilers! But this twist made me pull back from liking the book as well as I was up until that point. It was a disappointing turn.

This book was humorous and Dot’s perspective was told realistically and with all the details I would want with a character such as herself. I also really appreciated the full experience of going through Dot’s transformation and I understood how hard and painful all the steps were according to her story, fictional though it was.

This novel was published by Wet Coast Media, LLC on May 30th, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Black Poodle Over Seven Hills by Victoria Bastedo

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Black Poodle Over Seven Hills by Victoria Bastedo

A Contemporary Romance novel published by Satin Romance (10/18/2016)

Summary:

Soubrette offered to transport a high-end black poodle to Seattle in exchange for a free ticket to a new life, but when the owner’s cousin shows up instead of the owner, Soubrette will have to follow up to make sure the puppy gets to the right home. The cousin, Timothy, is immediately taken with Soubrette (and the dog) and offers to show her around and help get her settled. This simple meet cute will take a turn when Soubrette’s left behind baggage arrives in Seattle and interferes with Soubrette’s new life and new relationship.

Keywords:

Seattle, Poodle, Romance, Friendship, New Place, Moving, Leaving Behind, Stalker, Bully, New Beginnings, Queen Anne, Tourist, New Job

My Review:

A simple, meet-cute novel full of witty dialogue set against the lovely hills of Seattle’s Queen Anne, Black Poodle Over Seven Hills was a charming fast read. Where does the titular poodle fit in? She brings Soubrette and Timothy together – not in the ‘can I pet your dog’ sense, but in quite a different manner altogether. An airport chase and mistaken identity isn’t that big of a deal for Soubrette since she is calm in the face of potential danger, but this first scene foreshadows the depths the plot will jump to after the main characters meet and grow their friendship.

Both Soubrette and Timothy were fully developed persons with interesting backstories. Never has the answer to the question “so what brings you to Seattle” been so intriguing. Soubrette is a lively and cheerful lady with spunk and wit to spare even in the face of the past that won’t stop clinging to her coattails. Seattle may offer a new start for her, but she can’t leave her past behind, it will just take a bit longer to catch up to her.

Soubrette is a great mixture of passive and active character. Even when bad things followed her around, she was able to use her strength of character to make her own way and bully her way around some fairly tight situations. She is no damsel in distress, but even she can’t win all her battles. And that’s where Timothy Marsh gets a chance to save the day. Both Timothy and soubrette are independent, but any time they are together you will just have to smile at their witty banter and camaraderie.

I received an ARC from the author.

This novel was published by Satin Romance 10/18/2016 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 3.75

 

Links for more information:

On the web

SnoValley blog

Victoria Bastedo blog